Sunday, November 16, 2008

Citing Your Research

Writing fiction is unique when it comes to working with research. This is not just for historical research but for all types of research you might do. How do you incorporate the accurate information, and sometimes authentic primary sources directly into your text without parenthetical citations or footnotes.

This one is tough but easily accomplished and is a must. To prevent dealing with plagiarism issues, you have to include this information. Along the same lines, if your book sells, contractually, it is required that you have taken care of all this. The publisher specifically asks in most boiler-plate contracts that the work you have is 100% yours and that you have taken care of the "rights" to any other pieces of work you have included.

O.K. Scott, how do we do this then?

The easiest way is by keeping a VERY authentic reference list as you work. Unlike other Reference lists/Works Cited pages/Bibliographies, you will include a bit more information. Obviously the basic information and frankly MLA, APA or CME styles will work for this. What you also need to include is a brief description of where and how you used it. It can be as basic as "In the ballroom scene, Fred uses the description of Eagan's theory that is found in the 1872 manuscript of The Theory of Fizzle." Nothing major, but make a reference to it.

The second way is to incorporate the information into the actual writing. Literally have the character make a reference to it in conversation with another character or in the narration. For example.

"You know Steve, that same idea is very similar to Fizzleitus."
"What is that?" Steve asked Bob in a puzzled manner.
"Well, according to a recent article I read in my monthly shipment of books, a theorist hidden away in the Pacific Northwest named Eagan wrote of the Fizzleitus..."

Get the idea?

When you submit the material, you can include in the cover letter that you use authentic research and at a later point in the discussion with the editor and/or agent, you already have the list ready to go. That information can go in author's notes or even the introductory material.

Hope that helps.

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